Friday, 7 October 2011

sydney in season: october

"There's no produce like spring produce"...isn't that how the song goes? While it's true that all seasonal vegetables are special in their own right, there's something about supple green tasty things sprouting out of the slowly warming earth that's pretty darn special. Over the past few weeks, we've looked at new bars, tours and restaurants, so this week, it's time to pay homage to Sydney seasonal produce in October. Here are three in season ingredients and how to choose and use them.

1. Artichokes

Globe artichokes can look a little intimidating in their whole, fresh form - it all looks a little hospitable on the outside..and often (unless they're seriously tiny and fresh), they are. A member of the thistle family, the part of the artichoke you're actually eating is the flower.

Look for: small to medium bulbs with tight 'petals'.

How to cook: 1. Peel away most of the outer petals, until you start to reach the paler centre. 2. Chop off the tips of the petals at the top. 3. Halve the artichoke and use a teaspoon to scoop out the hairy looking bit in the middle (the choke). 4. Rub all cut surfaces with lemon juice to prevent discolouration and pop them in a bowl of water until you're ready to cook them. Make sure they don't touch aluminium or iron surfaces as these can make them discolour too. 5. Boil for 20-30 minutes in water, until they become tender.

How to eat them: Great tossed in a frypan with garlic and bacon, and they can also be preserved in jars in brine to be added later to salads.

Stefano Manfredi's tomatos with white bean puree and artichokes at Bell's at Killcare
2. Broadbeans

Like many beans, these little guys have received such a bad wrap over the years for being soggy and tasteless, purely because people tend to overcook them. Prolific through this time of the year, they're a cheap and tasty way of adding colour and interest to pastas, salads and more. And they're super easy to grow, so pop some in your garden!

Look for: Bright green pods that are intact and undamaged.

How to cook: Peel open the pod with your fingers and pop the beans out. If they're young, you can even leave the skin on and just cook the whole thing. Older broad beans, once removed from the pod need to be shelled by using your fingernail to break open the outer skin and discarding. Blanch in boiling water for thirty seconds and refresh in cold water. Add to a pasta or salad.

How to eat: Try a broad bean bruschetta: 1. Rub slices of sourdough bread with garlic and pop them under the grill. 2. Once golden, remove and top with broad beans, mixed with olive oil, salt and pepper and some shaved pecorino (you can add some truffle oil for something a bit luxe).

3. Kaffir lime leaves

Image sourced from here:
Used a lot in Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai cooking, Kaffir lime leaves are brilliant for imparting a unique aromatic citrus zest to savoury foods. The fruit is characteristically bumpy and warty looking and the leaves grown in doubles, making them look like little green hour glasses. Like any aromatic, you can finely chop them when cooking, or leave them whole to impart flavour (just remember to remove them before serving!)

Look for: Bright green leaves with no marks or imperfections. You will be able to find them in most fruit and veg grocers already washed and packed into bunches.

How to: Remove the centre vein from the leaf (too tough to eat) and the finely slice, tear or add whole into soups, stews, curries or sauces for a tasty citrus kick.

Eat it: They're great when steaming fish (pop on in the parcel) and in fish cakes to balance the seafood flavour.